March 4, 2009

A Place to Hang the Skates

Hockey team dedicates a new locker room in honor of Ben Sands, A54

By Paul Sweeney

Ben Sands has done it all for the Tufts University ice hockey team: playing, coaching, even resurrecting it as a varsity sport—and now leading the effort to give the team a permanent locker room at the rink where it plays.

Ben Sands (fourth from left) with family and Tufts hockey team members at the dedication ceremony. Photo: John Burgess

A native of North Reading, Mass., Sands attended Tufts and played as a defenseman on the hockey team until graduating in 1954. After the hockey program was dropped as a varsity sport in 1960, Sands was instrumental in bringing the team back to campus. He helped initiate a club team in the early 1980s and was a force behind the team regaining varsity status in 1986. After coaching the club team, he remained as coach of the varsity squad for six seasons and compiled a 73-63-4 record. His teams qualified for the ECAC playoffs in 1988, 1989 and 1991. He was ECAC Division III Coach of the Year in 1987-88.

With no rink on campus and the university facing financial concerns in the mid-1990s, the hockey program was nearly cut again. Sands stepped up once more and helped save the team, forming the Friends of Tufts Hockey group to raise funds to support the program. Within a few years, the team was going strong again. The program’s first full-time head coach, Brian Murphy, A95, G98, a former player and team captain, was hired and the Jumbos joined the competitive New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) league in 2001.

Sands has continued his support of the team over the last decade, along with his wife,
Judy, J57. Recently, his attention has been focused on raising funds for the construction of a team locker room at the Valley Forum II in Malden, home of the Jumbos. Previously, Tufts players had to transport their equipment from the campus to the rink and back for practices and games. The locker room opened in November for the start of the 2008-09 season, and now the team has a much more convenient and comfortable arrangement in their home away from home.

A view of the new ice hockey locker room. Photo: Brian Murphy

On February 14, prior to the last home game of the season against Southern Maine, Tufts dedicated the new locker room in honor of Sands. With funds raised by the Friends of Tufts Hockey, the locker room was revamped out of an old office at the rink. It includes 30 oak stalls, showers and plasma televisions for video work, among other accoutrements. The room is named the Ben Sands Locker Room, and the team has sole access to it year-round.

“The locker room has been a great addition for our program,” Murphy says. “Because Ben was able to get so much support from alumni, friends of the program and others, we really were able to do everything we wanted in the renovation. The players can now leave their equipment there and get their skates sharpened. It limits the time spent traveling each day because they do not have to bring their gear back to the gym. We also have team meetings and can do video work on the two flat-screen TVs. The biggest thing is that for the first time, the Tufts hockey team gets dressed in the same room for every practice and home game. It is fantastic.”

“Ben Sands has been a tremendous supporter of Tufts Athletics for many, many years,” says Bill Gehling, director of athletics. “Not one to seek out or accept credit for his work, Ben has quietly spearheaded fundraising efforts to underwrite our hockey program during tough times and to create the fund to purchase and renovate this new team locker room. He is most deserving to have the room named in his honor. Ben’s generosity of spirit is a model for others to emulate. We are lucky to have him on our team.”

Tufts Sports Information Director Paul Sweeney can be reached at

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